The Music of Chilly Gonzales
Discover the music of Chilly Gonzales with Killian Fox’s curated discography. Also be sure to check out his profile of Mr. Gonzales.
Gonzales Uber Alles
After a disheartening brush with the music industry in Canada, Jason Beck decamped to Germany and created Chilly Gonzales. His first solo record, released on arty Berlin imprint Kitty-Yo, dabbled with electro, trip-hop and easy listening, most successfully on “Let’s Groove Again”. The album was largely instrumental and devoid of rapping, but its provocative title spoke of devilry to come
Gonzales’ first foray into rap music, or “prankster rap” as he called it, was an amalgam of nonsense rhymes, groansome puns, obscenities, reminiscences about going on an African safari, and cheaply produced beats. You could dismiss it as a goonish practical joke if it weren’t for the obvious love for hip-hop informing the rhymes and the feral punk-like energy, which on “Candy” turns into a vitriolic rant against his old label. Not to mention Gonzales’s rapping, which is surprisingly decent once you get beyond the lupine snarl, and the contributions from like-minded souls on the Berlin music scene such as Peaches, who produced the standout “Futuristic Ain’t Shit To Me”.
After The Entertainist’s lo-fi japery, Gonzales returned with a more refined and richly produced record which re-imagined its protagonist as a smooth political operator ready to seize the reins of power. Some of the madcap rapping was retained – see “You Snooze You Lose” – but the skeletal electro beats were fleshed out with piano and string arrangements. “Take Me To Broadway”, in which Gonzales threatens to expose his chest hair if he ever gets there, hinted at the impending transition from rapping to singing. Feist and Peaches added guest vocals.
[No Format!] (2004)
In the Gonzales context, this sublimely controlled classical piano album was a bolt from the blue, but in fact Beck is a classically trained pianist and has played since the age of three. These short, economical pieces, indebted to Erik Satie, linger in the ear long after the music fades. Not surprisingly, the album sold much better than previous efforts and the sheet music has also proven popular with people who’d probably run a mile from other Gonzales releases.
Beck took a break from solo recording after Presidential Suite to produce for Feist, Jamie Lidell and others. Never one to do the same thing twice, he returned with a personal take on Seventies soft-rock ballads and disco anthems. Personal, because this was the music Beck loved as a kid, and also because he injects it with the distinctive Gonzales psychopathological spin. “I love you/ But I hate you” he croons at the start of “Slow Down”, the album’s gloriously cheesy highlight.
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Will it feel the same when you tell me you love me over the phone? Will the peacefulness of those words still floor me from thousands of miles away?
I was conflicted. It felt like one eye was trying to look away while the other soaked it up. I felt the heat rise in my face. This was wrong. But it didn’t feel wrong.
Any nervous flyer knows the progression of descending panic: bile, sweaty palms, social awkwardness and self-induced sedation.
I know how it feels when the weight of darkness crashes down onto your chest in the middle of the night, and how you wish things would stop spinning because the axis seems tilted now. I know, love, I know.